Obsession is OK.


I grow them. Admire them. Paint them. As a motif they offer seductive lines. Classic refined beauty. Sensual simplicity that feels challenging to emulate.


I am working in a lovely tunnel of my our devising. Sort of experimenting. Which is, sort of an excuse for open ended painting. I know that means, there is no deadline, or pressure to resolve.


Who knows, where it will take me – I’ll know if I get there.

Arum studies. Watercolour.

Still working on this. Like an unfinished coversation, I woke up thinking about something to add.

And finally. After a few days, (but it could be longer), of revisiting, waking up with an idea or resolution, sometimes a solution to a visual problem – the clunky dark bottom right corner…

Arum painting. Finished – I think.

Obsession is also a form of commitment. To not give up too quickly. Or to call it finished too soon. To be more rigorous about observing the work and resolving those niggly shapes and to adjust tones that are too dark, or too light. To deal with areas that are weak – not to be complacent or satisfied too easily. Ask more of yourself. To always want it to be better.

A Fresh Line of Enguiry.

It’s not all plain sailing – having all this time to paint is good – if one has a plan or project. Sketching is my default – when I am without a scheme of works to drive my motivation.

A fist full of garden flowers.

We have the opportunity to experiment – with no looming deadline.

Hound on hand made paper.

Looking for different effects and less familiar marks.

Being a bit playful.

WC Paint on hand made paper.

Time to practice and not to produce.

Splashing about with blousy garden poppies.

Just paint. Get paper and watercolours and shut the noise of the real world out.  Clean water regularly. Use Pure colour as much as possible with lots of water to create lighter tones. Glazing for depth and making complex colours – transparent layers capturing  that ‘something’ that mixing cannot offer. For the love of it.

More fun for me in the making than for the viewer in the seeing.

The first pass is often more cathartic than effective. Solving painting riddles and exorsizing imps. (The painting imps that want so much with so little effort.)

I feel often that the beginner painter believes  ‘I’ve started so I must finish’ instead of, ‘I’ll give this a go, and if it doesn’t work out or please me I’ll try again’

Orientals no. 2

A freer composition. I felt much more pleasure at its open possibility and allowing the eye to roam around the surface. I had not boxed myself into a corner..

Still flowing but with compositional gaps.
Some progress. And then I went back to the first one.
Compositional changes and glazing layers.

So much time.

It’s a truth that when I have more time, like now, to do as I please, I become more wasteful of it. My weekly structure has disintrigated. My self diciplin has become flabby and I my activities are more dictated by the whims of weather than an efficient creative being.

Though a lot of what I am doing just now is not visible. Painting or tending the garden both have a step back and admire moment, which may be transitory, still however fleeting – a mown lawn lasts about a week.

This precious time is being largely taken up by helping administrate an art exhibition. Which in the three months of lock down has gone from a physical show with delivered works, to an online presentation. 

Yellow Brick Road

Not long after arriving in Scotland I met three very different creative people. One day we got together to go to Sunny Side Bay. One baught with her the picnic items which were foods to taste for a wedding menu. One was going to show us a rare plant she knew was down on the rocky shoreline. One was usually provider of the venue for a life drawing group that three of us attended. Living closer by the bay she provided the information of where to meet for our adventure. And I took my watercolour sketching kit.

We talked and walked. We ate the delicious food and made helpful comment, (yummy) and i sketched. We saw the rare flower and dolphins dancing round a fishing boat out at sea. We found treasure . A boat brush, a long thick rope.

And like with this art show, we hoped for some of these things without knowing they were there or what they were, or what they would taste or look like. We got so much more from the company and scenery than we ever imagined. I remember it rained on our way back up the path, but that did not damp the day, so memorable and bonding.

It was many years ago.

The group who are pulling together to turn closure and cancellation into a positive open door, have encountered so many unexpected hurdles, not least from within. We have been challenged and out of nessesity, required to embrace new methods and initiatives. At the same time as even more issues have manifested themselves, Unseen, unencountered before and all needing solutions. New ground, new rules, rewriting the script.

We are not finished yet. Today I expect more letters… Some of praise and thanks, or outraged at our shambolic procedures. Others recognising the efforts involved and the time it all takes. Admiring what we are aiming to achieve and some lost passwords. The enormous fees, the misread, the misinterpreted, our total incompetence and the creation of an amazing virtual gallery.

I personally will not have much to show for this time.

But there are some amazing people rising up and doing what is needed – a collaboration of energy attitude and skills – supporting and encouraging and creating an online gallery that will serve the societys members and more, well into the future.

A pleine aire

The warmer weather returns to co-inside with completing (still ongoing actually – but completed in the sence that it is resolved), a work trail in the studio. So I have time to go out and play.

On Sunday it was warm enough to sit out painting for over an hour. Until the rain I had indicated in the threatening sky came down on me

Drawing, sketching, painting outside is like I imagine the best form of meditation to be. All other thoughts are vanquished. I am at one with view in front of me and everything else in my head gets put into perspective .

Creating Chaos

The process I am describing is of Making a mess and then tidying up. Different ways of working are interesting to observe, thats why we like seeing artists studios in the raw – not all tidied up as they are during open weeks. (I might not bother to tidy this year if it happens! ) – what I do and how I do it may not be appropriate for other people. But maybe affirming for some.

I try to start with a clear space and the things I think might be useful close at hand. But once I get going it becomes a mess that I try to navigate through without loosing the thread.

Tidied after 5 weeks of messing.

I remember seeing Frances Bacons studio and was horrified. (it was a long time ago). That he could paint such fine orderly paintings (because they are not in any way haphazard), in such a confined mess. But he had a straight pathway through the piles of rubbish on either side, (mostly empty paint tubes), to the canvas. A clear view through the chaos.

That is the relevance for me, that I can keep sight of the possibility of the image. Or images. Confidence while creating and to retain that confidence still, even when looking at it in a tidy world.

The images are being stretched face down to flatten out bulges and crinkles.

Cut the flattered paper carefully away from the tape.

I Do, I Undo, I Redo. Louise Bourgeois made three monumental towers that represented the title. They were the first exhibit in the Tate Modern turbine hall when it opened. What I understand of that title has become my mantra. And I will be undoing and redoing this work again. And maybe again still.

Isolation learning…

A rare opportunity to learn something new presented itself to me today.

17th century barn purshaced as a flat pack.

This barn is being reconstructed by my future son in law. As part of the reconstruction process he needs in the region 800 hand made wooden pegs.

Richard showed me the process.

Personalised peg making stool.

He has made a stool with specialised foot clamp – which holds the wooden pegs firmly in place as they are stripped to shape with a draw knife. I learnt how to split strips of wood off a log and then trim them into one inch square sticks about 12 inches long. Like making kindling.

It was dark in the barn. But that’s the log I split slices off to make the pegs.
It is similsr to a ‘donkey’ drawing stool

I took about two hours to make 15 pegs. I was improving but was completely worn out. It was a most satisfying achievement, to make useful pegs that will be part of the barn structure for years to come …

Happy artisan.

The barn structure – so far.

Shape, versus Detail.

It’s all about the shape just now – for me – outline wins over detail. The obsessive observation of detail (and in this regard I am maybe thinking of hyper, photographic realism sort of detail) doesn’t see the wood for the trees. So drawn into the fine details that the bigger shapes are either lost or too dominant in the composition.

Snakes head

The shape is defining. The detail, though delightful, I believe to be secondary.

So a siluette can and often does encapsulate the object or idea. The loss of detail as happens with strong back light, is no hindrance to knowing what the subject is. It also allows room for the viewers imagination to play, wheras the super real is defining. A statement with less room for discussion.

Plover – Monotype

This plover image is a balance between outline shape and detail. The primary work, the siluette was complimented with most nessesary detail. White underside s and paddle shaped wings.

Sometimes –

Inspiration is a delicate, indulgence and sometimes we need to just work. It is a luxury to have inspired thoughts, ideas for creative working, they seem to come out of the blue – but can be traced., like dreams, to random connections of activity or events or notes, sketches, from long past or just this second. Ping.

Flowers from and in my garden.

This concertina sketch book is the second in a series, for painting observational studies of the flowers that grow in my garden. The first book took about five years to complete and was sold at a charity event last year. This one was hand made, by me, with good watercolour paper, to give myself another four or five or six years of inspiration free project. To work on and in when inspiration is absent. It is a relief to have a task ongoing that does not require that dammed elusisive inspiration.

Today. Anenome Blanding.

A versatile process…

When a drawing or painting is made onto a surface that allows it to be transfered to another surface – it can create a monoprint. If the surface that the drawing is made on is flexible, for example a plastic sheet. It can then be transfered to another surface, maybe a gesso board, or a canvas, a wall or a piece of paper. Size or surface is not restricted. This would not be possible if you needed to put the image through a press to get the print…

The ‘why’ is for you to fathom.

Perspex, plastic, glass.

I am going to use just my hand pressure to transfer the marks I make. The perspex and plastic could also be put through a press if I wanted, but the glass can not.

I used a sponge to cover the plastic with an even covering of ink. And the roller to cover the glass.

Rhythmic gentle pressure to cover as evenly as possible.

The subject, a seashell that I had picked up from the shore at Arbroath. I particularly like this object because it is not complete. Its sides are eroded to reveal the inner structure.

I am not using the press for these pieces so the process is entirely possible without big investment equipment. But it helps to have soaked paper – as that aids the transfer of the ink and better absorbs some of the detail. If the paper is too damp/ wet it can creat havoc. Just like with watercolours. The dryer the paper the more control and detail possible. But if the ink and paper are too dry you might get nothing shifting. And more damp encorages unpredictable, exciting effects and sometimes complete chaos.

Paper soaking in the sink.
The drawing on plastic.
The print.

The image is Lways reversed by printing, that is generally unforgiving of an unbalanced work. And of course makes the monoprint unsuitable for famous city skylines… Though there is always a solution. Draw the image onto tracing paper first, turn it over and use the reverse to create the monoprint. Any how, I never tire of what the mono print/ transfered mark does to a drawing/painting. It arbitrarily changes details and offers unexpected gifts, the smudges and accidental changes that occur through the process. Sometimes magical and delightful – and sometimes smeared and slippery rubbish, or even nothing, absolutely nothing at all.